I was always a little in awe of Great-aunt Stephina Roos. Indeed, as children we were all frankly terrified of her. The fact that she did not live with the family, preferring her tiny cottage and solitude to the comfortable but rather noisy household where we were brought up-added to the respectful fear in which she was held.
We used to take it in turn to carry small delicacies which my mother had made down from the big house to the little cottage where Aunt Stephia and an old colored maid spent their days. Old Tnate Sanna would open the door to the rather frightened little messenger and would usher him-or her - into the dark voor-kamer, where the shutters were always closed to keep out the heat
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She was a tiny little woman to inspire so much veneration. She was always dressed in black, and her dark clothes melted into the shadows of the voor-kamer and made her look smaller than ever. But you felt. The moment she entered. That something vital and strong and somehow indestructible had come in with her, although she moved slowly, and her voice was sweet and soft.
She never embraced us. She would greet us and take out hot little hands in her own beautiful cool one, with blue veins standing out on the back of it, as though the white skin were almost too delicate to contain them.
Tante Sanna would bring in dishes of sweet, sweet, sticky candy, or a great bowl of grapes or peaches, and Great-aunt Stephina would converse gravely about happenings on the farm ,and, more rarely, of the outer world.
When we had finished our sweetmeats or fruit she would accompany us to the stoep, bidding us thank our mother for her gift and sending quaint, old-fashioned messages to her and the Father. Then she would turn and enter the house, closing the door behind, so that it became once more a place of mystery.
As I grew older I found, rather to my surprise, that I had become genuinely fond of my aloof old great-aunt. But to this day I do not know what strange impulse made me take George to see her and to tell her, before I had confided in another living soul, of our engagement. To my astonishment, she was delighted.
"An Englishman,"she exclaimed."But that is splendid, splendid. And you,"she turned to George,"you are making your home in this country? You do not intend to return to England just yet?"
She seemed relieved when she heard that George had bought a farm near our own farm and intended to settle in South Africa. She became quite animated, and chattered away to him.
After that I would often slip away to the little cottage by the mealie lands. Once she was somewhat disappointed on hearing that we had decided to wait for two years before getting married, but when she learned that my father and mother were both pleased with the match she seemed reassured.
Still, she often appeared anxious about my love affair, and would ask questions that seemed to me strange, almost as though she feared that something would happen to destroy my romance. But I was quite unprepared for her outburst when I mentioned that George thought of paying a lightning visit to England
before we were married."He must not do it,"she cried."Ina, you must not
world of warcraft power leveling,let him go. Promise me you will prevent him."she was trembling all over. I did what I could to console her, but she looked so tired and pale that I persuaded her to go to her room and rest, promising to return the next day.
My wife called, 'How long will you be with that newspaper? Will you come here and make your darling daughter eat her food?
I tossed the paper away and rushed to the scene. My only daughter, Sindu, looked frightened; tears were welling up in her eyes. In front of her was a bowl filled to its brim with curd rice. Sindu is a nice child, quite intelligent for her age.
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I cleared my throat and picked up the bowl. 'Sindu, darling, why don't you take a few mouthful of this curd rice? Just for Dad's sake, dear'.
Sindu softened a bit and wiped her tears with the back of her hands. 'Ok, Dad. I will eat - not just a few mouthfuls, but the whole lot of this. But, you should...' Sindu hesitated. 'Dad, if I eat this entire curd Rice, will you give me whatever I ask for?'
'Promise'. I covered the pink soft hand extended by my daughter with mine, and clinched the deal. Now I became a bit anxious. 'Sindu, dear, you shouldn't insist on getting a computer or any such expensive items. Dad does not have that kind of money right now. Ok?'
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'No, Dad. I do not want anything expensive'. Slowly and painfully, she finished eating the whole quantity. I was silently angry with my wife and my mother for forcing my child to eat something that she detested. After the ordeal was through, Sindu came to me with her eyes wide with expectation. All our attention was on her. 'Dad, I want to have my head shaved off, this Sunday!' was her demand.
'Atrocious!' shouted my wife, 'A girl child having her head shaved off? Impossible!'
'Never in our family!' My mother rasped. 'She has been watching too much of television. Our culture is getting totally spoiled with these TV programs!'
'Sindu, darling, why don't you ask for something else? We will be sad seeing you with a clean-shaven head.'
'Please, Sindu, why don't you try to understand our feelings?' I tried to plead with her.
'Dad, you saw how difficult it was for me to eat that Curd Rice'. Sindu was in tears. 'And you promised to grant me whatever I ask for. Now, you are going back on your words. Was it not you who told me the story of King Harishchandra, and its moral that we should honor our promises no matter what?'
It was time for me to call the shots. 'Our promise must be kept.'
'Are you out of your mind?' chorused my mother and wife.
'No. If we go back on our promises, she will never learn to honour her own. Sindu, your wish will be fulfilled.'
With her head clean-shaven, Sindu had a round-face, and her eyes looked big and beautiful.
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On Monday morning, I dropped her at her school. It was a sight to watch my hairless Sindu walking towards her classroom. She turned around and waved. I waved back with a smile. Just then, a boy alighted from a car, and shouted, 'Sinduja, please wait for me!' What struck me was the hairless head of that boy. 'May be, that is the in-stuff', I thought.
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'Sir, your daughter Sinduja is great indeed!' Without introducing herself, a lady got out of the car, and continued, 'that boy who is walking along with your daughter is my son Harish. He is suffering from... leukemia'. She paused to muffle her sobs. 'Harish could not attend the school for the whole of the last month. He lost all his hair due to the side effects of the chemotherapy. He refused to come back to school fearing the unintentional but cruel teasing of the schoolmates. Sinduja visited him last week, and promised him that she will take care of the teasing issue. But, I never imagined she would sacrifice her lovely hair for the sake of my son!
Sir, you and your wife are blessed to have such a noble soul as your daughter.'
I stood transfixed and then, I wept. 'My little Angel, you are teaching me how selfless real love is!'
The happiest people on this planet are not those who live on their own terms but are those who change their terms for the ones whom they love !!
There are some people who are completely happy with themselves, their lives, and their prospects for the future. While they can be considered to be more fortunate than most, most who do not fall into that category are not as bad off as they tend to believe. Instead, they are simply lacking something, or making mistakes, which are standing in the way of their lives being as fulfilling as they would prefer. Some even go as far as to not realize the immense potential they possess.
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What is the main difference between those lucky individuals whose lives seem to be wonderfully on-track and those who, often despite every step of trying on their part, appear to have all of the odds stacked against them? While in some cases it is a matter of some people having better luck than others, those whose lives are content in the moment and proceeding in the direction of their choice, do not live in the past.
Whether you are thinking about your personality or your life in general, success means focusing on the here-and-now. While it is important to acknowledge the choices and experiences which resulted in you being where you are today, it is equally important to not allow yourself to become so caught up in thoughts of the past that the present day passes you by.
Self-motivation is the key to ensuring that you do not continue repeating the same mistakes. You may have had one or more errors in judgment which led you to take the wrong path, or to make mistakes that were not in your best interest. You can acknowledge this without rehashing them over and over again in your mind, and simply be determined to make different, better decisions today.
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Then is over; this is now. The less time and effort you put into looking at the past, the more you will have for living and experiencing this day. You will also find that letting go of the past will give you a deeper sense of strength. Instead of allowing past mistakes and worries to drain your energies, you will have a renewed energy to live your life to the fullest and enjoy it more.
Being content with yourself and optimistic about your future is not difficult. Whatever is in the past is over; learn from it and move on. When you are self-motivated enough to do this, you will see that moving ahead is the best definition of living life.
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With that said, what can you do now? Sure it is easy for me to tell you to forget the past, yet it is a whole different practice to actually do it. Life is a complex set of events much of which of course is real, yet a large amount is just your view of what really happened.
Let me explain with an example. I know not everyone is a football fan but I am guessing most have watched at least part of a game on TV. Most plays and almost all the important plays are played over and over on the TV screen right after the play happened.
How many times have you watched a play and were certain and I mean certain of the outcome, say the player caught a pass, then watching the instant replay you realize you were totally wrong, the player dropped the pass. What you were certain you saw, never happened.
The first step in trying to minimize the effects of your past in order to concentrate on your future is to find out how much of the past that you are certain happened were just mistakes on your part.
A quick example might be as a teenager you tried to build a piece of furniture out of scrape wood in your father’s workshop. The piece of furniture looked good when you finished but fell apart before you could show your father and you assumed your were a lousy carpenter and the rest of your life you have avoided building anything. Yet the reality was the scrap wood you used was faulty and not your building ability.
Yet the rest of your life you have believed mistakenly you are a poor builder of things.
The Amphibian Survival Alliance will bring together existing projects and organisations, improving co-ordination, scientific research and fund-raising.
About a third of amphibian species are threatened with extinctions.
A two-day summit held last week in London identified the two main threats as destruction of habitat and the fungal disease（真菌病） chytridiomycosis.
"The world's amphibians（两栖类） are facing an uphill battle（艰难的斗争） for survival," said James Collins, co-chair of the Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG) co-ordinated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
"By far the worst threats are infectious disease and habitat destruction, so the Alliance will focus on these issues first."
Last week's meeting, held at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), declared that research into possible treatments for the chytrid（壶菌） fungus should be a top priority.
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Identified only a decade ago, the fungus now infects amphibians in the Americas, Australia, Europe, Asia and Africa.
How it originated and how it kills are matters of ongoing research.
But in practical terms, finding something that can stop it in open country rather than the laboratory is the big challenge.
Researchers have found that some amphibian species carry chemicals on their skin that provide a natural defence.
The idea is to see whether these chemicals can be turned into something that can attack the fungus in the wild, providing a defence for species that currently have none.
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The new Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA) sees this line of research as an urgent priority.
More difficult to tackle（处理，抓住） will be the ongoing destruction of habitat that is a concern in most continents, but especially in parts of Asia that are seeing rapid expansion of cities, industry and infrastructure.
"If we want to stop the amphibian extinction crisis, we have to protect the areas where amphibians are threatened by habitat destruction," said Claude Gascon, the Amphibian Specialist Group's other co-chair.
"One of the reasons amphibians are in such dire（可怕的，悲惨的） straits（困难，窘境） is because many species are only found in single sites and are therefore much more susceptible to（对……敏感的） habitat loss."
As a group, amphibians are considerably more threatened than birds, mammals, fish or reptiles（爬行动物）.
Apart from habitat loss and chytrid, issues of concern are:
unsustainable hunting for food, medicine and the pet trade
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other infectious diseases
The formation of the ASA was proposed in 2006 but adequate financial and institutional backing did not materialise.
At that stage scientists were divided over how money and resources should be split between conservation in the wild and captive breeding.
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Now there is general agreement that both strategies are necessary.
Initial backing emerged at the ZSL meeting in the form of a $200,000 pledge that will fund the ASA co-ordinator's post for two years.
It is cold, so bitter cold, on this dark, winter day in 1942. But it is no different from any other day in this Nazi concentration camp. I stand shivering in my thin rags, still in disbelief that this nightmare is happening. I am just a young boy. I should be playing with friends; I should be going to school; I should be looking forward to a future, to growing up and marrying, and having a family of my own. But those dreams are for the living, and I am no longer one of them. Instead, I am almost dead, surviving from day to day, from hour to hour, ever since I was taken from my home and brought here with tens of thousands other Jews. Will I still be alive tomorrow? Will I be taken to the gas chamber tonight?
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Back and forth I walk next to the barbed wire fence, trying to keep my emaciated body warm. I am hungry, but I have been hungry for longer than I want to remember. I am always hungry. Edible food seems like a dream. Each day as more of us disappear, the happy past seems like a mere dream, and I sink deeper and deeper into despair. Suddenly, I notice a young girl walking past on the other side of the barbed wire. She stops and looks at me with sad eyes, eyes that seem to say that she understands, that she, too, cannot fathom why I am here. I want to look away, oddly ashamed for this stranger to see me like this, but I cannot tear my eyes from hers.
Then she reaches into her pocket, and pulls out a red apple. A beautiful, shiny red apple. Oh, how long has it been since I have seen one! She looks cautiously to the left and to the right, and then with a smile of triumph, quickly throws the apple over the fence. I run to pick it up, holding it in my trembling, frozen fingers. In my world of death, this apple is an expression of life, of love. I glance up in time to see the girl disappearing into the distance.
The next day, I cannot help myself-I am drawn at the same time to that spot near the fence. Am I crazy for hoping she will come again? Of course. But in here, I cling to any tiny scrap of hope. She has given me hope and I must hold tightly to it.
And again, she comes. And again, she brings me an apple, flinging it over the fence with that same sweet smile.
This time I catch it, and hold it up for her to see. Her eyes twinkle. Does she pity me? Perhaps. I do not care, though. I am just so happy to gaze at her. And for the first time in so long, I feel my heart move with emotion.
For seven months, we meet like this. Sometimes we exchange a few words. Sometimes, just an apple. But she is feeding more than my belly, this angel from heaven. She is feeding my soul. And somehow, I know I am feeding hers as well.
One day, I hear frightening news: we are being shipped to another camp. This could mean the end for me. And it definitely means the end for me and my friend. The next day when I greet her, my heart is breaking, and I can barely speak as I say what must be said: "Do not bring me an apple tomorrow," I tell her. "I am being sent to another camp. We will never see each other again." Turning before I lose all control, I run away from the fence. I cannot bear to look back. If I did, I know she would see me standing there, with tears streaming down my face.
Months pass and the nightmare continues. But the memory of this girl sustains me through the terror, the pain, the hopelessness. Over and over in my mind, I see her face, her kind eyes, I hear her gentle words, I taste those apples.
And then one day, just like that, the nightmare is over. The war has ended. Those of us who are still alive are freed. I have lost everything that was precious to me, including my family. But I still have the memory of this girl, a memory I carry in my heart and gives me the will to go on as I move to America to start a new life. Years pass. It is 1957. I am living in New York City. A friend convinces me to go on a blind date with a lady friend of his. Reluctantly, I agree. But she is nice, this woman named Roma. And like me, she is an immigrant, so we have at least that in common.
"Where were you during the war?" Roma asks me gently, in that delicate way immigrants ask one another questions about those years.
"I was in a concentration camp in Germany," I reply.
Roma gets a far away look in her eyes, as if she is remembering something painful yet sweet.
"What is it?" I ask.
"I am just thinking about something from my past, Herman," Roma explains in a voice suddenly very soft. "You see, when I was a young girl, I lived near a concentration camp. There was a boy there, a prisoner, and for a long while, I used to visit him every day. I remember I used to bring him apples. I would throw the apple over the fence, and he would be so happy."
Roma sighs heavily and continues. "It is hard to describe how we felt about each other-after all, we were young, and we only exchanged a few words when we could-but I can tell you, there was much love there. I assume he was killed like so many others. But I cannot bear to think that, and so I try to remember him as he was for those months we were given together."
With my heart pounding so loudly I think it wil1 explode, I look directly at Roma and ask, "And did that boy say to you one day, 'Do not bring me an apple tomorrow. I am being sent to another camp'?"
"Why, yes," Roma responds, her voice trembling.
"But, Herman, how on earth could you possibly know that?"
I take her hands in mine and answer, "Because I was that young boy, Roma."
For many moments, there is only silence. We cannot take our eyes from each other, and as the veils of time lift, we recognize the soul behind the eyes, the dear friend we once loved so much, whom we have never stopped loving, whom we have never stopped remembering.
Finally, I speak: "Look, Roma, I was separated from you once, and I don't ever want to be separated from you again. Now, I am free, and I want to be together with you forever. Dear, will you marry me?"
I see that same twinkle in her eye that I used to see as Roma says, "Yes, I will marry you," and we embrace, the embrace we longed to share for so many months, but barbed wire came between us. Now, nothing ever will again.
Almost forty years have passed since that day when I found my Roma again. Destiny brought us together the first time during the war to show me a promise of hope and now it had reunited us to fulfill that promise.
Valentine's Day, 1996. I bring Roma to the Oprah Winfrey Show to honor her on national television. I want to tell her in front of millions of people what I feel in my heart every day:
"Darling, you fed me in the concentration camp when I was hungry. And I am still hungry, for something I will never get enough of: I am only hungry for your love."